Rye Y Story Project: Henriette

The Y has always been a very intricate part of our lives in the USA. The very first time that I visited the USA with my husband was many, many years ago. We went to New York and the second day we went to the YMCA near Central Park. A friend was going there and said ‘you really have to check it out’ – and we loved it. Every time we came back to New York, we went back to the YMCA. One day, we decided to move to New York City from Europe. A few hours after we moved in and put our luggage down in our apartment, we woke up jetlagged at 4 am. We knew that the YMCA was open at 5:00 am. So we went there, had coffee and by 5:30 am, became members!

The Y was one of the things that really made New York so special to us because we have nothing like that where we come from. In the same class, you will have an 18-year-old trendy girl, a grandmother and a tourist like me, back then. We loved that! It was the first time that I liked going into a gym. When we moved to Westchester eight years ago, the first thing we did again was to become a member of the YMCA. It was a different one because it was closer to home, but then we visited the YMCA of Rye and fell in love with the swimming pools, the people, the facilities and all of the classes.

Every time we have friends coming from abroad, they all have to visit the YMCA because it is such a part of America. I cannot tell you how many friends from overseas have sent their kids to the YMCA summer camp. They were safe, it was a good environment and they all love it! They didn’t all speak English very well, but they all felt at ease and welcome. They all love the spirit of the YMCA.

The sense of community is very strong in the USA. Being at the Y, we just started little by little donating regularly because we love all the things the Y does for the community. When I decided to go back to work, I knew that I wanted to work for a nonprofit. So I thought ‘why don’t I just start with volunteering at the Rye Y because it is a place that I love and go to all of the time.’

I am very happy to be volunteering at the Y. It is exhilarating to do something that you love and to make a difference. I did know about the Y Care program, but as I have learned more, I realized how amazing it is that the Y accepts anyone regardless of their financial situation. I think this is really unique.

Our life in the USA and the YMCA are intricately linked. A few weeks ago, we interviewed to become Americans. I had to show that I was living in the USA for the past five years but my passport was stolen so I couldn’t prove it. One of the ways we proved it was by asking the YMCA to write a letter saying that I was an active member for the past six years. It was a last-minute request, it was a bit of a strange request, and in two hours I got it. I was amazed because the YMCA didn’t have to do it. I just asked them for a letter, saying ‘can you please do it today?’ I really felt like the Y was here to support us and they really are.